THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV
STORY "THE ROBOTS OF
DEATH" AND THE NOVEL
PAPERBACK (ISBN 0-
IN SEPTEMBER 1998.
The TARDIS arrives on
a world of violence,
hunt and kill
endlessly, VYING FOR
SUPREMACY AT THE TOP
OF THE FOOD CHAIN. But
is evolution on the
planet natural or
engineered by some
Last Man Running
Chris Boucher has to his name three serials that, for many, typify the very best qualities of the Tom Baker era. Intelligent, witty and resplendently gothic, to this day Boucher’s trilogy of fourth Doctor and Leela television serials remains immensely popular.
I think it is fair to say, however, that the general reaction to Boucher’s first Doctor Who novel has been much less buoyant; even quite scathing, in a few cases. For my part, I found “Last Man Running” rather enjoyable in a few discreet places but, on the whole, a pretty agonising affair.
To examine the novel’s affirmative elements first, it really has to be said that this one evokes the very sights and sounds of the television serials surrounding it with every bit as much success as Gareth Roberts’ fourth Doctor novels for Virgin captured the later fourth Doctor serials. Much of this is attributable to the author’s effortless characterisation of the fourth Doctor and Leela, which is absolutely fabulous; though probably not all that surprising given that it was Boucher that first wrote for the scantily-clad savage.
Another major reason that this story feels so familiar is that it is, essentially, a fusion of all three of Boucher’s television stories – we have the alien jungle from “The Face of Evil”
(albeit realised with a bit more gusto here, given the lack of budgetary restraints), the murder mystery of “The Robots of Death”, and even the thematic heart of “Image of the Fendahl”. In isolation, these components work well within and even, to a certain extent, define the serials from which they are borrowed, but in “Last Man Running” their combination feels clumsy, not to mention lazy.
Furthermore, the characters that Boucher spews onto the page do not hold a candle to those that he created for television. In the whole novel, only Rinandor and Pertanor stand out as being even remotely memorable, and this is only because of their relationship’s sexual undercurrent, which is almost farcically out of place in such an otherwise traditional, derivative piece of work.
“The idea was that was that when the machine had defined and discovered the perfect soldier,
it would copy it in sufficient numbers to maintain the Empire forever after.”
That much said, “Last Man Running” does have its moments – the Toodies and their chubby-chasing made me laugh, and there is one enchanting sequence early on in the book where the Doctor is pursued by a relentless, overgrown louse. An army full of Leelas was an interesting idea too, but sadly this idea was skipped over all too brusquely in the end.
In summary, I cannot recommend “Last Man Running” to anyone but the most fervent fourth Doctor enthusiasts. Yes, it is certainly traditional; and yes, it is full of the flavour of the television adventures surrounding it; but personally I prefer Doctor Who novels with a little more gumption.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This novel’s blurb places it between the television serials The Robots of Death and The Talons of Weng-Chiang. As the events of Chris Boucher’s subsequent novels seem to follow on from those depicted here,
we have placed this book between the television serial The Robots of Death and the novel Corpse Marker.
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